Opinion 93-18


This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.

FIRE COMPANY -- Powers and Duties (authority to require referendum on establishment of service award program)

FIRE PROTECTION AND PREVENTION -- Towns (circumstances requiring referendum on service award program)

FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICTS -- Service Award Program (circumstances requiring referendum on program for fire company in fire protection district)

VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS -- Service Award Program (authority to require referendum on establishment of program)

GENERAL MUNICIPAL LAW, §216(2): A town board is not required to conduct a mandatory referendum on a proposal to establish a service award program selected by a fire company located within a fire protection district in the town, unless the proposal has been approved by a vote of at least sixty percent of the town board.


You ask whether a town board is required to conduct a mandatory referendum on a proposal to establish a service award program selected by a fire company located within a fire protection district in the town.

The authority and procedures for establishing a service award program are set forth in General Municipal Law, §216. Section 216(2) provides that upon the affirmative vote of at least sixty percent of the governing board of a "political subdivision" which has contracted with the volunteer fire departments or fire companies located in a fire protection district of the political subdivision, there shall be a mandatory referendum of the eligible voters residing within the fire protection districts to determine whether the governing board shall establish a service award program for the volunteer firefighters of the fire departments or companies. For this purpose, the term "political subdivision" means a county, city, town, village or fire district (id.; Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law, §3[10]).

Thus, section 216(2) does not require a town board to conduct a mandatory referendum on a proposal to establish a service award program unless the proposal is approved by a vote of at least sixty percent of the town board. Further, section 216(2) does not require a town board to vote on a proposal selected by a fire company. In this regard, we note that although other statutes require a town board to submit a matter to referendum upon the filing of a petition (see, e.g., Town Law, §81), there is no comparable provision in section 216(2).

Accordingly, it is our opinion that a town board is not required to conduct a mandatory referendum on a proposal to establish a service award program selected by a fire company unless the proposal has been approved by a vote of at least sixty percent of the town board.

April 6, 1993
Howard Protter, Esq., Attorney for the Town
Town of Patterson